flowers of blood - lal singh dil
Lal Singh Dil’s life is difficult to slot into a simple revolutionary sentiment. He was buffeted like a raving stone in the torrent of a system beset with inequality. But it is his early experiences of being an outcast, a dalit in his village that shaped his view of the world. In his memoirs he recollects with vivid detail being thrashed by a Jat child for entering their sacred pool. He joined the Naxalbari movement and was jailed at the time, at the peak of fake encounters, and the state crackdown on Naxalism. But even there, he was treated as an outcast by uppercaste comrades.
"Now however I am at peace with all that has happened because poets have to cross the river of fire- in my case the flaming red Satluj- to keep the little lamp in their hearts ever ablaze”
A poet and a lover till the end, he never gave up on his dream of a better world His argument was with the universe, with nature and with god. He wielded words not like a sword, but a flower. The inherent inequality written into the everyday, and a deeply empathetic gaze take the reader, at once, to the heart of oppression. Like the tea that he brewed every evening at his stall, his words gave warmth, and inspiration, to the poor, the pariahs, and the revolutionaries of this country. Disillusioned by Naxalbari he converted to Islam.
In a letter to Chandan, which is part of his biography, he wrote that a crescent moon had appeared on his palm, adding, “Allah is very kind to Maoists because he understands cultures!”
Dil was dissapointed, eventually, even in the way Islam was practiced by the upper-caste Muslims in Muzzafarnagar. He refers to the pervasivenes of Hindu caste prejudice that had entered.
I share Dil’s poetry today, because I’m searching for meaning. I do not understand how a poor daily wage labourer beaten up in jail, or a mother who’s 8-year old son has been killed by the police will find the desire to live, to continue to fight against the inevitability of this system. I share his work because many years ago, a chaiwallah really did find hope, and spoke like a prophet, of how “blood red blossoms” will “bloom” when the need arises.
For more on the fascinating life of Dil, and his poetry, do read “Poet of the Revolution: Memoirs and Poems” with an introduction and translations by Nirupama Dutt.